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Book introduction

Blood Runs Cold – an E-book introduction

The Hive is live with its second offering “Blood Runs Cold”

It contains seventeen edge-of-the-seat thriller stories written by seventeen authors. -Ratnakar Baggi, Varadharajan Ramesh, Tina Sequeira, Sarves, Rashmi Agrawal, Srivalli Rekha Mantrala, Anshu Bhojnagarwala, Priya Bajpai, Sreeparna Sen, Christopher Dsouza, Aradhna Shukla, Ell P, Kanika G, Sheerin Shahab, Pranav Kodial, Pavan Kumar and Yours truly.💛💛

The efforts are being noticed and appreciated by well-established and well-respected writers like Neil D’Silva and Damyanti Biswas who have written the forewords for ‘Route 13: Highway to Hell’ and ‘Blood Runs Cold’ respectively.

With diverse voices on board each story has something for the readers.

Grab your copy of ‘BLOOD RUNS COLD’ from here:

http://mybook.to/BloodRunsCold

Fiction

Coming soon…a Thriller anthology you will love

#Project3 #TitleReveal #BookCoverReveal

Hi all, 

I am a contributing writer in this exciting venture by The Hive.

The Hive is a non-traditional publishing collective. The first anthology was Route 13: Highway to Hell, a horror anthology. 

The anthology experienced tremendous success. More than 200 copies were consumed by eager readers. It might seem like a small number, but it’s not. In the world of self-publishing, these are great numbers, especially for a brand new entity like The Hive. Route 13 topped the horror charts on Amazon new releases for a whopping 6 weeks in a row and remained in top 3 for more than 12.   

Now, The Hive launched #Project3. They invited submissions and nearly 50 entries were received.

All the entries were subjected to a stringent two-round selection process and SEVENTEEN stories were selected to be part of #Project3. I am elated that my story is a part of this exciting anthology.

#Project3 is ‘An Anthology to Thrill,’ and the seventeen stories are going to do exactly that – thrill you, the readers. It has stories about scorned lovers, devious criminals, supercops, sleuths, violence, blood, danger, suspense and, murder. You are going to enjoy this. 

Delighted and proud to present to you the title, cover and release date of #Project3. 

                        BLOOD RUNS COLD 

                    Book Release: 17/07/2020

Why July 17th? Well, it is a very significant day for crime and mystery. 

1. The Romanov family were murdered

2. Erle Stanley Gardner, author of Perry Mason, was born on that day

3. The 100-year war ended with the battle of Castille

4. July 17th is the Day of International Criminal Justice. 

I hope ‘Blood Runs Cold’ gets the same support and love which ‘Route 13: Highway to Hell.’ enjoyed. 

Enjoy!

Yatindra Tawde

Travel

Hampi, Anegundi, Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami Part 2

Day 3

After an exhausting day in Hampi, we decided to take it easy the next day. This decided our destination for the day, which was Anegundi. Anegundi is nearby, @  20 km. from Hampi instead of another exhausting drive to Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami, which involved lot of travel.

Instead of breakfast in the resort itself, we opted for a light one outside. So the driver took us to the same garden restaurant where we had lunch the previous day. While my wife had a simple sada dosa, I had Mysore masala dosa which was totally different from the one available in Mumbai and so mouth-watering.

Once the breakfast was done, we were on the way to Anegundi. We passed through the very common landscape of Hampi and it’s surroundings, the boulder strewn countryside with small, green fields sprinkled in between. These are the rice plantations interspersed with the banana ones.

 

For those who don’t know, Anegundi or Anegondi is the Kishkindha of Ramayana. Kishkindha was the capital of Vali, the Monkey King and his brother Sugreeva, who helped locate Maa Sita for Shri Ram.

 

We reached our first destination, the  Anjanadri hill. A small, whitewashed temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is perched on the summit. The Anjanadri hill is a hill of huge boulders piled on top of each other. The driver told us that there are more than 550 steps to the top which seemed to be a daunting task. But we decided to brave it and were on the way.

 

It’s a relief that most of the initial climb is under covers, as there is a roof constructed over the stairs. But once you have crossed 1/3rd of the way, you are climbing under the direct sunlight and the steps become steeper. It is not for those with bad knees. We were apprehensive on this point, but thankfully our knees held up.

 

As one climbs higher and higher, the view below gets more enchanting, a chequered vista of green and brown, green of the rice fields and brown of the boulders.

 

So we proceeded with regular halts to catch our breath. I noticed one thing. When there are many people doing the same thing; here, climbing and halting to catch their breath, an unknown bond is formed with the fellow climbers, smiles are exchanged, they tell each other, where they come from, their immediate travel plans, etc.

Just before the last few steps to the top, you have to bend more than half of your body height to pass underneath a huge boulder which almost bars you from proceeding further. It’s as if the penultimate bow before the Lord before you are welcomed into his presence.P_20200306_113744

We left our footwear with an aged person who seemed to be appointed for just that. Since the month of March is not in the usual tourist season, there was not much of a crowd. 

We were soon inside the Hanuman Mandir. We had darshan and sat inside, meditating before the Lord. It’s a small mandir and the space inside is enough for just a handful of devotees. 

After 15-20 minutes of silent contemplation, we emerged outside to have a look at the surrounding landscape. And were we zapped with the beauty of the fields below!

If that is not enough, tall coconut trees line the green fields and narrow canals and lazy roads meander through them.

 

After spending about an hour and a half on the top, we started our descent. During the descent, the topmost steps were comparatively difficult due to the step height. But once we reached the covered steps, the final descent was a breeze.

When we reached at the bottom, we were surprised to see a lady hawker of bananas talking to the monkeys who surrounded her. Though we didn’t understand the language, we were sure she was admonishing them for being boisterous and naughty.

Talking of being boisterous, we were certainly not, after the vigorous exercise of the last 3 hours. Our battery was down and our driver wanted us to climb another small hill to go to another temple. We declined politely, praying before the hill with folded hands.

Next, he took us to the Laxmi mandir located on the bank of Pampa Sarovar. Pampa Sarovar is a small lake which is considered to be one of the holy lakes in India. It attracts a large number of pilgrims as well as tourists throughout the year.

It finds a mention in the Ramayana too as Lord Ram and his brother, Laxmana had passed through during their quest for Sita. It is the same place where Shabari waited with the berries to meet Lord Ram. 

Though we didn’t witness it, Pampa Sarovar becomes very picturesque during the season of lotus bloom, with the whole lake being filled with lotus buds.

The priest of the Laxmi temple was a Maharashtrian from the holy place of Pandharpur and we were pleasantly surprised when he started talking to us in Marathi as soon as he saw us enter. I was surprised and asked him how he knew that we too were Maharashtrians. He just smiled mystically and proceeded with his prayers.

Once we left from there we were feeling hungry and tired. We had lunch at the garden restaurant and then decided to rest at the resort in the afternoon.

After the siesta, my wife was still feeling exhausted so I proceeded alone, this time to the Tungabhadra dam. 

The Karnataka Government has made excellent arrangements for the tourists. They arrange regular bus trips to the top of the hill, which flanks the dam and also to a beautiful garden.

Once I got off from the bus, the silvery rays of the setting Sun, reflecting from the dam waters welcomed me.

The panoramic view from above gives a bird’s eye view of the surrounding plains. One can see many water canals below, taking the water to far off places. After spending about 45 minutes on the hilltop, I made my way back. I skipped the garden as I was alone and then returned back to the resort.

 

Thus ended the day. The next day was another day of long car rides and walking.

Yatindra Tawde

 

book review

Hiraeth – A book review

The first image that captures your attention is the apt artistic rendition of the message the author wants to convey. The tree symbolises the Indian subcontinent, rooted in the same culture but the ripped apart into two countries by a sudden cataclysmic event.

As you read the stories, you are drawn into the lives of ordinary human beings, pushed into facing sudden extraordinary circumstances.

If there are obnoxiously creepy individuals, trying to take undue advantage of unfortunate situations, there are people who have not lost their humanity in the face of the difficult times.

If there are people who lost their sanity, there are individuals who clung to some hope even in those trying times.

But finally these are heart rending stories of the common man whose destiny was so mercilessly turned upside down by fickle politicians looking for their self-aggrandizement.

As you read the stories, you cannot but admire the high level of research, the author, Dr. Shivani Salil, must have undertaken to meet such affected individuals and families who were caught in the turmoil of that unfortunate event of partition of a great country on the basis of religion.

I recommend this book for all those who were far removed from this page of history, especially the young generation which is separated by the many decades of freedom.

Yatindra Tawde

humour

The Bus

As man evolved, he understood that, compared to other animals, he was a weakling. This was apparent on his various hunting expeditions to provide food for his dependents.

In addition to many other parameters, he lacked in speed. Most of the time, his prey galloped away or ran away, and he was left panting by the wayside.

Thus his need to domesticate various other animals like the horse to gain speed. This was his preferred means of transport, whenever he needed to travel faster, till the industrial revolution, when mechanised vehicles were introduced in the form of cars.

But these cars ran on petrol or diesel which were in short supply, hence expensive.

He felt the need to transport a larger number of people at a time and thus a bus was born. Though it ran on the same expensive fuel, the higher numbers it carried made it economical. But this dependence on buses and cars for faster travelling meant burning of the highly polluting fuels which became one of the major factors of global warming.

Thus started the search for cleaner and inexpensive energy sources.

Electrical energy is cleaner and today it is taking baby steps towards electric cars but there are other cheaper energy sources too, on which buses and cars can run. Like CNG, LPG, etc. but man is never satisfied.

Which brings us to the news which I read today.

It seems UK has taken a very important step where they have test driven a bus run by poo.

Poo, did I say!

Coming to think of it, it certainly would be inexpensive as it gets generated regularly, mostly every morning. Of course, there are those unique specimens who generate it untimely. And then there are few who fall ill and cannot hold it in and have to rush to generate.

There are enough species who do this extremely important social work day in and day out and contribute to reducing the global warming. My salutations to the scientists who conceived this unique energy source, based on methane conversion.

The day is not far, when this poo generation takes the form of an industry where various species are lined together every morning to generate energy for the ever growing vehicle numbers.

Already I see the importance of certain middle Eastern countries going down and corresponding elevation of another country which already has such an industry lining the huge network of railway tracks all across the length and breadth of its vast geography. It just needs to be tapped and exploited in a proper way.

Yatindra Tawde

Uncategorized

The Legend of the Egg

It’s said that Social Media is a world of’likes’ and’dislikes’. But in this world, these words are in their sillier avatar.

But that is expected to happen when people can socialize only by ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’. Nowadays ‘likes’ have taken the form of ‘love’ which is denoted by a red heart. Whereas ‘dislike’ has taken an ugly turn in the form of ‘troll’.

But today we will concentrate on’likes’ since recently it was in the news.

A puny brown egg; yes brown, for the racially sensitive, managed to dethrone the current queen of social media, on one of the social apps.

Now, anyone would wonder how can people like a photo of a humble egg, that too in such large numbers. After all, it is meant for creating a life or feeding someone. Why would anyone give it so much importance?

This Eggegend; that’s my word for the egg legend, it gave me sleepless nights. And a depleted breakfast, as I couldn’t bring myself to cannibalize a legend in the making, or rather a legend already made.

So my research started and where did I roam on the big, bad Earth for doing this research?

Nothing like what you would imagine.

I spread myself on my sofa after eating an eggless cake, which served two purposes. One, I was eating an vegetarian snack and second, I was respecting a legend.

While I lazed on the sofa, my mind was concentrated on the search engines which chugged across the pad screen.

And lo and behold!

There was this story of an Indian teenager who was the mastermind of this whole saga. And this was a proud moment for patriotic me.

This is his story –

He clicked an enticing photo of the brown egg, which did all the hard work of posturing before a DSLR camera. The teenager too, did not leave any egg…er… stone unturned, to capture the historic moment on camera. With just the right lighting and innumerable captures.

Finally he was ready to challenge the reigning queen.

The next step was to share his invaluable capture on the same photo sharing app, the fiefdom of the Queen.

And then the masterstroke!

Appeal to the empathetic feelings of the people; their propensity to support the underdog. So the photograph was captioned, ‘Let’s make the Egg the most liked on this app and challenge the reigning Queen!’. And the public did the rest.

And the rest is history.

Today this photograph is the most liked after dethroning the Queen and still counting the likes.

All hail the Eggegend!

Yatindra Tawde

humour, science

An Egg, 1000 year old

The first thought that came to my mind, when I read about it is, ‘Would the chick hatched out of a thousand year egg be 1000 year old?’ Such profound thoughts do cross my mind, once in a while.

Recently the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered a fully intact egg from 1000 years ago during excavation at a town named Yavne. But how did it manage this era defining journey of 1000 years. Did it travel by a time machine? Well, there was no such adventure. The archeologists say that the reason for it being so perfectly preserved is that it had made a soft landing. It was pillowed in soft human poop inside a 1000 year cesspit. How it managed to end up there, in the first place, is not yet known.

Surprisingly they were also able to recover some yolk, which has been preserved for DNA analysis in future. I can imagine some chicks and cocks flaring their feathers in anticipation of their unborn ancestor. The human cesspit does have its uses, though a trifle smelly.

Yatindra Tawde

science, Uncategorized

Magnetism

Ability to attract is known as magnetism. Ferrous materials are known to be magnetic. Are humans magnetic?

Over the years humans are known to have displayed magnetic properties but they were quite uncommon. In the olden times, before the television and movie era, when human circuses were one of the entertainment options, such rarities were displayed to the watching public. People paid to gawk at them. Such human magnets were made to sit in cages with an assortment of spoons, nails and the like sticking to their bodies. It is also possible that the paying public were fibbed off by glueing the spoons and nails to the body of some poor fellow desperately in need of cash.

Many things have happened to people after taking the covid vaccination. Some unfortunate fellows with comorbidities didn’t benefit from the vaccination and they fell prey to the dreaded disease. Some had side effects, mostly mild but sometimes serious. While some had mild fever, body aches and headaches, some had to deal with blood clots.

But today I read that one person in India has turned magnetic after the vaccination and I was zapped.

How can someone turn magnetic after vaccination which is actually administered to repel something sinister?

So, the news channels are running a clip on loop where a man wearing a vest, stands with many spoons and coins sticking to his arms, chest and back.

Can this really happen? Well, watching the video one is tempted to believe. But is there another angle to it? Was his body magnetic before the vaccination, but he came to know only now? But he is a senior citizen, could have known it before. Is he a publicity hound? Doesn’t seem so…

So while the concerned authorities and doctors study his case to find out, a strange fear gnaws my mind. After all, my second vaccination is due in a few days…

 

Yatindra Tawde

book review

White as milk and rice – A review

Book title – WHITE AS MILK AND RICE

Author – Nidhi Dugar Kundalia
Publisher – Penguin Random House India

No. Of pages – 241

Frankly, when I went for this book, my expectations were different. I don’t know why but I had thought that the book will have stories from mythology of the various tribes of India.

But once I had read through the introduction by the author, I grasped that it was going to be something totally different from my initial expectations.

There are six stories but each story takes you to a different territory in the vast expanse of India, ranging from the hills of South India, the chambal ravines in the west, the forests of Central India and finally culminating in the North East.

You peek into the ordinary lives of some extraordinary tribals and the back stories of the protagonists and their tribes enrich your knowledge of many aspects of their history. Their daily struggle to keep their unique culture alive amidst the all encompassing march of modern life is what enriches the stories to the next level.

By the time you reach the end of the book, you know something more about the Halakkis, the Kanjars, the Kurumbas, the Marias, the Khasis and the Konyaks. And wonder whether they have lost their heritage or are we, the so-called modern denizens of this world, the real losers.

The author injects charm and pathos into each story.

A Common thread which runs through all stories is how the tribals take only that much from the forest, as is required for survival and don’t exploit it for greed.

I must thank the author, Nidhi Dugar Kundalia, for staying in their midst for a long time and documenting a vanishing way of life, weaving charming stories and enriching us, the lay readers.

Yatindra Tawde

 

humour

Videographically yours

In today’s time of constant exposure to the social media, the making of pre-wedding videos at most of the picnic spots around town is trending.

Whenever I visit a lake in our vicinity, I happen to encounter atleast one such photographer and his client couple. While I hope to see pristine nature at the lake, my senses are assaulted by these over-enthusiastic photographers. Okay, if they just click the photos and get the dirty deed done with and vamoose from the spot, it would still have been okay. But they want to assault the early morning walkers, joggers and pranayam enthusiasts with the most acrobatic pyrotechnics.

One such client couple had come dressed in their best Western wear, the girl in a flowing gown while the guy was in a suit. Now, since she had worn a flowing gown she had brought along her friend to hold and manage it. Mind you, this is the hardest job, for the gown has to be kept away from the morning job of some random dog, in addition to ensuring that the would-be bride doesn’t trip on its flowing folds. The would-be bride was also most conscious of her makeup, her dress and her appearance. Running her hand through her hair and adjusting her dress, she needed her friend’s continuous barrage of words of support and encouragement.

The guy in suit knew who was the center of attention and watched his would-be wife with a blank expression. 

The photographer, on the other hand, was enthusiasm personified. With the continuous contortions of his body to capture the best shots, I don’t think he would need to join a gym or do yoga to keep himself fit. Sometimes he went on his haunches while sometimes he lay flat on his stomach while holding the camera near his eyes.

Another trend is for would-be mothers to get their videos done. For such videos, various props are very important and the photographers use the most ridiculous ones. Baby clothes are one such. Then there are the toys, dolls,  etc. Once I saw a would-be mother displaying baby shoes near her face, which was tilted at angle.

So friends, those who are at that stage in life, what are your plans? Do share your thoughts.

Yatindra Tawde

memories, Sports

The Tall Little Master

The brisk walk to the crease, the floppy hat, the swinging of arms and we were all excited that a new test match was about to commence.  And happy that India had won the toss and elected to bat, awaiting another great innings from Sunil Manohar Gavaskar. Once the guard was taken, we were treated to that most balanced stance in world cricket. No extra movement, no nervous twitch, only a strong desire to enter the ‘Zone’ as fast as possible. Even the bat lift was bare minimal.

The fast bowlers he faced were tearaways, just the sight of them running in to bowl used to put the fear of God in the best batsmen. Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Colin Craft, Malcolm Marshall of the West Indies, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thompson of Australia, Bob Willis of England, Richard Hadlee of New Zealand,  Imran Khan of Pakistan, such was the undoubted pedigree of those days. And more often than not, Gavaskar trumped them all.

Here he was, ready to put them to test, a test of their patience,  a test of their skills. Ball after ball was met with a straight bat, waiting for them to falter in line and length, waiting for them to tire out and then the full range of elegant strokes were unfurled. If the forward defensive stroke was serene then the cover drive was sheer poetry in motion. And those straight drives, with the head perfectly still; one would be ready to go to any part of the world to enjoy watching.

He was the world record holder for the most number of centuries in test cricket but some of them made a lasting impression. He had announced his arrival on the world cricket scene like a Boss against the mighty West Indies with 3 centuries and a double, so much so that a calypso song was written on his ability to go on and on. Or rather, the inability of the West Indian bowlers to get him out. The innings of 221, batting in the Fourth innings against England brought India tantalizingly close to a memorable victory which  was not to be. It continues to be my personal favourite. The 236 not out against West Indies in India was memorable,  being his record breaking 30th century when he broke the long standing record of the great Don Bradman. The 127 vs Pakistan in Pakistan was in a lost cause as the other Indian batsmen were no match to the guiles of Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz. And finally, the almost century, an innings of 96 under the most challenging conditions in Bangalore vs Pakistan in his last test match. He retired while still at the top of his game.

Though his ODI career pales in comparison to his Test career, he still had his moments under the sun. From the tortoise paced innings of 36 not out he played in a world cup match to the pinnacle, when he led India  to triumph in the World series of cricket in 1985 interspersed with a World Cup victory under Kapil Dev in 1983, he saw the highs and lows of Indian ODI history.

He was without a century at the Lord’s during his Test career, but he made amends when he played an innings of 188 in the MCC Bicentennial match at Lord’s in 1987, while playing for Rest of the World eleven after his retirement.

Gavaskar inspired a sense of confidence in the Indian test cricket team that they could face the best opposition on equal terms.

Yatindra Tawde

book review, humour

Vellagiri on FB – A book review

Book title – Vellagiri on FB

Author – Krishnan Seshan Iyer
Publisher – StoryMirror Infotech Pvt. LTD.
No. Of pages – 150

‘Expect the unexpected’ when you pick up this book because it is unlike any other. There are no short stories, it is not a novel nor is it a serious commentary. Instead it’s ‘Vellagiri’.

Now what is ‘Vellagiri’ someone may ask. It is a totally Mumbai lingo which the author has used so innovatively in his book title. ‘Vella’ comes from ‘Velle’ which is used for people wasting time, doing nothing. So, ‘Vellagiri’ is a tongue in cheek reference to the author sharing his treasure trove of quotable quotes on FB to the benefit of his immense friend circle. And now we, the mango people, can equally enjoy the fun.

Now, why do I say it is a treasure trove of quotable quotes? Well, for that, open this book and start reading.

Whoever said only famous personalities are capable of quotable quotes have not met the author, Krishnan Seshan Iyer. His quotes arise from his intrinsic scathing sense of humour and a sharp mind honed over the years in the Corporate law field. He is blessed with an ability to critique and capable of giving ‘Jor ka jhatka, dheere se…’ and sometimes not so ‘dheere se’ at all. You may not necessarily agree with him, but please do enjoy the sarcastic humour while you are at it.

And for those who cannot do without FB, here’s a quotable quote from the book, ‘I just realized that MZ is my wife – keeps reminding me of things I said a few years back!’

So guys and gals, go for this book. Let me assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

Yatindra Tawde

humour

The Mask

Why the hullabaloo over a mask, someone may ask. Well, since it has become such an intrinsic part of our lives there’s no option.

Thus, mask manufacturing is an industry in itself. Like every product manufacturing industry it is very important to know the user or consumer profile to design masks.

I also tried to study the user profile and here are my findings –

The warrior – he/she is totally committed to avoid spreading the virus and protecting himself from the virus. He is a warrior because he fights against the virus by following the proper precautions. He is also a warrior because he will not think twice before disciplining others who fall short in following the precautions. He will shout or argue against such irresponsible people whose masks have slipped a bit. He will point to the lowered mask with his finger and with the slightest of upward movement, ask them to place it properly on there nose.

Flaring nostrils – he tries to follow the precautions but his mask keeps slipping from his nose while just managing to maintain its position on his mouth. He has not yet got used to having his nose covered due to suffocation.

Chin music – he is in majority and many times his mask gets mistaken for facial fuzz (I am talking only about ‘he’ here). He is committed to protecting his chin from the viruses which might find a way into his body through the skin pores. His nose and mouth are relatively virus resistant, or that’s the impression he creates.

Neckers – as you must have deduced by this time, the consumers are getting labelled as per the lowering position of the mask. Thus he/she flaunts the mask on the neck while pulling forward their ears. So they appear like ear-pulled rabbits. These are the next in majority.

Hookers – don’t misunderstand, these are the people whose masks hang precariously from one of their ears which act like hooks. These hookers increase the blood pressure of the warriors precariously.

Nudists – these will flaunt their nostrils and lips in full public view most shamelessly without a care in the world.

Jokers – they will wear the most outrageous masks, sometimes shaped like animal heads and sometimes painted with cartoon lips bringing a smile to spectator lips which are themselves hidden behind masks.

Fashionistas – these are mostly the better half kind though not necessarily. The masks always match their clothes and such masks are most innovatively designed ranging from saree type masks in Paithani, Kanjeevaram, et all to diamond encrusted masks for the elites. To cater to such connoisseurs of masks, entire showrooms have come up in almost all towns.

So Guys and Gals, which consumer profile do you belong to?

Yatindra Tawde

Fiction, horror

The Rag doll

First shared on #ArtoonsInn

Atmaram Nana was alone at home. Having lost his wife, Supriya, two years back, he stayed with his son’s family at their house in the town of Kankavli, in the Kokan area of Maharashtra.

Atmaram was very proud that he had been able to buy this house from the original owners, the Nene’s when he was quite young. His son Raghuram, Raghuram’s wife, Revati and their 6-year-old son, Rahul had gone to Mumbai to attend the wedding of one of their relatives from Revati’s side.

Atmaram Nana was quite sprightly even at the age of 72. He had kept himself in good health by gardening every day, in their small little garden, his darling cat, Mani, following him everywhere.

Today, Atmaram was feeling quite lonely. On top of that, he had not been able to sleep properly. The creaking sounds from the attic had been quite loud during the night and Atmaram blamed it on the withering timber.

He decided to investigate. Anything to pass the time. As he made his way up, he put on a cloth mask on his nose, to protect himself from the dust and cobwebs.

On reaching the top, he crinkled his eyes to see better in the darkness. Then he reached for the light switch and put on the light.

Like most of the households in the town, the attic was used as a storage place for drums of rice and wheat. And where there is food, rats are bound to follow. This is where Mani made herself useful.

Crouching to avoid hitting his head against the low ceiling, Atmaram made his way across the attic, his footsteps causing swirls of dust to rise and then settle back on the attic floor. Most of the floor was occupied by various household items like a broken chair, Rahul’s childhood schoolbag, his broken toys, old utensils and the like, which ideally should have been disposed of to some scrap dealer.

Suddenly Mani screamed, “Meowww…” and something swung down from the ceiling, hit Atmaram in the face, making him lose his balance and fall. Fortunately, not much harm was done except for soiling of his clothes.

Looking up to see what had hit him in his face, he saw a rag doll, it’s head held to its body by a few threads, hanging upside down from the ceiling. Perhaps belonging to Rahul he thought; though he could not remember anyone gifting or buying a doll for Rahul. Cursing Raghuram for placing the doll on the ceiling, he espied a tin trunk in the corner where he had fallen.

Like his cat, Atmaram was overcome with curiosity. What would this trunk carry? What memories will it hold? And he had time to kill.

He saw a lock on the trunk. His memory scanned through the recesses of his mind, but couldn’t remember whether he had the key for it or not. So he took the next available option, reached for the spade lying in another corner of the attic and hammered on the lock. In a few strokes, it gave way.

All this while, Mani was doing a big din with her meowing, Atmaram couldn’t fathom why.

As he prised open the trunk, Mani fell silent. In fact, she jumped inside the trunk and started her sniffing routine. Atmaram gently picked her up and put her down outside.

Inside was his old camera! And some photo albums. For the next few minutes, he got lost in his past, for the photo albums held many memories, especially of his wife, Supriya and their child, Raghuram.

Raghuram and his family were back from Mumbai the next day, a Sunday morning. Once they had settled down Atmaram placed the camera on the table. Rahul was sitting on his lap.“Wow! Nana, that’s your favourite camera. Where was it all these days?” exclaimed Raghuram with surprise.

Like a person who has been gifted a new smartphone when he least expected it, Atmaram’s eyes were twinkling.

“You know, it still has a film in it, I think it must be half used. Oh, how I loved this camera. It is a Rolleiflex! It had been gifted to me by my uncle, Sakharam kaka. I understand he bought it in Mumbai….no, Bombay, in those olden days” the words rolled off Atmaram’s tongue in his excitement.

Raghuram was happy to see his father so happy. He had not seen him so enthusiastic and talkative for a long time.

“But why did you suddenly stop using this camera? I faintly remember you using it when I was but a child”

“I don’t know. Actually, I don’t remember it. Why did I stop using?”Atmaram tried to recall but in vain. All the while his fingers were busy in re-familiarising themselves with the various buttons and knobs of the camera.

As he pressed a knob, the lens side slid open. With shivering fingers, Atmaram prised open the side and the lens protruded out, sliding on the bed so formed. This was the zoom-in zoom-out feature of the camera.

With child-like excitement, he took the camera near his face to look into the viewfinder. He pointed the camera at Raghuram, who was busy giving a false smile. The viewfinder was a little yellowed now but he saw something hanging from the ceiling in the background, where Raghuram was standing.

All this while, Mani was making a cacophony, looking at Nana.

But when he put aside the camera to see what it was behind Raghuram…there was nothing. Again he tried to click his son’s photo but the button would not budge. And the apparition remained in the frame, though he could not pinpoint what it was. Perhaps a spec of dust?

“I think that’s why I stopped using the camera. It’s not working. And who will repair it in a small town like Kankavli?”

“No worries Nana. So what if it’s not working now. We are the proud owners of an antique camera like Rolleiflex. And let’s develop the film inside. At least we will be able to re-live some old memories”, so saying Raghuram took the camera from his father to retrieve the film.

However, he was not able to do so. “Call that photographer, Aniket. He should be able to retrieve” advised Atmaram.

“I will do one thing. I will take the camera tomorrow while going to the office and drop it off with Aniket. In evening, I will get it home with the developed film”.

The next day Raghuram came home in the evening with the camera and the developed prints.As soon a Raghuram entered, Mani became agitated. The hair on its body stood on end; she arched her back and bounded off, out of the house.

But Raghuram hardly registered it, he was eager to show the photos to his father. In his haste to come home, he had not yet seen the prints and wanted to observe his father’s reactions to the old photos, which had not yet been seen by anyone.

There were total of 10 photos. Nana was so happy to see his young wife, Supriya smiling into the camera. In some, she was alone, while in some she was carrying the child, Raghuram.Those were the days! Reminisced Nana fondly. Raghuram was watching the varied emotions fleeting across Nana’s face.

The last few photos were from this very house. It seemed to be someone’s birthday.Then Nana remembered. It was Raghuram’s 5th or 6th birthday. It was the first birthday to be celebrated in this house.

Nana remembered; he had bought the house from the Nene’s. He had been lucky. The Nene’s had sold it off to him in haste and at less than the market rate of that time, and Nana had been so happy about this unexpected windfall. Before shifting to Kankavli, Nana had been staying in the interiors of Malvan and had made enough money from his fisheries business.

After selling it off to him, the Nene’s had left Kankavli for good.The eighth, ninth and the last photo caught Nana’s attention. For standing behind a posing Raghuram, was a girl who appeared to be slightly older than the child Raghuram.Nana did not recall any such girl visiting their house. But it could be the failing memory of an old man. She must have been someone from their neighbourhood.

However, Raghuram who had been silently watching the photos and his father’s reactions to them did a double take on seeing the girl.

He plucked out the photos from his old man’s hands and stared intently.“I remember this girl Nana. She used to come to my room very often to play with me. And I remember, she had this same rag doll, with its head hanging by some threads” smiled Raghuram, as he pointed out the rag doll in the photograph.

Suddenly Nana’s throat felt parched. “Revati, bring me some water”, he felt goosebumps on his hands, as he suddenly remembered the rag doll which had swung from the ceiling in the attic and hit him on his face.

With shivering hands, he reached for the box of medicines lying nearby and took out his hypertension medication. He gulped the tablet with the water offered by Revati.

“But Raghuram. I never saw any such girl entering our house, at least not when I was at home” exclaimed a puzzled Nana.

“Yes, Aai also said the same thing to me. In fact, she used to say that I talk to myself like a madman. She felt that I was play acting. But here is that girl!”

For some moments both, father and son stared at each other, transfixed by what Raghuram had just said.

Then Nana grabbed Raghuram’s hand, “Take me to the attic. I want to show you something”.

Raghuram supported his father, as both of them went towards the attic.“Revati, please prepare for dinner. We are coming back in a few minutes”

Reaching the top, Raghuram put on the lights. Both of them entered inside.

“That day, I entered the attic and was trying to see what all is kept here since I had come up after many months. And, while walking in this very corner, see there…”, and pointed upwards towards the ceiling.

It was empty!

Raghuram looked at his father with a puzzled look.“But…but, it was here only. Where is it gone?” Nana got very agitated.“What, Nana? What did you see?” Raghuram was now losing his patience with his old man.

“Raghuram I saw the same rag doll! The same one with its head hanging by a few threads. But where is it now? I did not remove it. Has it fallen somewhere”, so saying Nana started searching on the dust-laden floor? But it was nowhere to be seen.

“Leave it, Nana. Why search for a useless doll. I am hungry. Let’s go for dinner”

“Ok, let’s go. But it’s surprising, isn’t it? Perhaps Mani….Mani carried it away?” Nana was still puzzled by the mysterious disappearance.

After putting off the attic light and locking it, both of them descended below.

As they passed a room, they heard Rahul talking to someone. “I have no one to play. Will you come often? Shall we play hide and seek?”

Eager to see whom Rahul was talking to, Raghuram entered the room, followed by his father.

“Won’t you introduce us to your new friend, Rahul. Who are you playing with?” asked Raghuram.

“Later Baba. She is hiding now”.

Smiling at Rahul, amused with his play-acting, both turned to leave; there in the corner where Rahul was staring, was the same rag doll…with its head attached to its body by a few threads!

Both father and son stood dumbstruck as they saw Mani in the window, hissing in the same direction, where the doll lay!Oh! What entity had the camera let loose?

The Nene’s; or rather the wife, now stay in far-off Kolhapur. The mother still feels extreme remorse at sacrificing her daughter in her mad quest for a son, which remained unfulfilled.

Her husband, Shripatrao Nene had a horrific accident during their journey from Kankavli to Kolhapur when the bus in which they were travelling passed very near to some trees, and one of the branches got caught in the window in front of him, causing a whiplash action decapitating his head, but held from falling off, by a few muscles. Like a rag doll!

book review

A Book review : Tea with a drop of honey

Book title : Tea with a drop of honey by The Hive

An anthology of short stories

Author – various

Tea with a drop of honey is an anthology of short stories by 28 different authors so you can be assured about the variety on offer. As is the wont for The Hive, this anthology gets a smashing foreword by Aparna Vedapuri Singh, Founder & CEO, Women’s Web.

The anthology opens with a beautiful love story, Not so Parsi Love, a story of love overcoming the religious divide.

Coming to my most favourite story in this anthology, The Heimlich Manoeuvre, I loved how the author has woven a humorous situation around the national lockdown.

Another story which stayed with me is My Big Fat Punjabi Divorce, a tale of a Punjabi family putting aside their petty differences and supporting their daughter/sister. I wouldn’t want to reveal more, do read the story…

To Sculpt a dream is a story which took me back in history and the setting is magical, with a profound message hidden in it.

  Cup of Tea for the Misfit Two beautifully weaves a fairy tale-like love story around the title of the book and was entertaining.

Much Ado about nothing is an audacious and hilarious prequel to a very famous love story,by the author and she succeeds in entertaining the readers.

Raz’on de Ser is a surefire tearjerker of a love story which tugs at the heartstrings.

Table number 9 is as philosophical as they come, with some great quotes. 

The Murphy Conundrum surprised me with a mixture of genres and leaves you with a feel good feeling at the end.

The other stories are entertaining too and you must read Tea with a drop of honey to know still more hidden gems.

Yatindra Tawde

humour

Marriages or…mirages

First posted on #ArtoonsInn

The enticing aroma of coffee wafted across CCD, as l lost myself in the dreamy eyes of my wife, Priya. The hint of a smile curling her face was too alluring as i reached for her soft palms to take them in mine. 

Just then our order arrived and we untangled our hands in a hurry. As i  reached for the egg wrap, Priya rapped me on my knuckles. She picked up the egg wrap and lovingly extended her hand towards my mouth. Closing my eyes, I elongated my neck, imagining the egg melting in my mouth when…

“What are you doing, Rohit? Pay attention! I am already late for the office. Rotate the chapaati properly on the tava. It should nicely fill up with air, otherwise it will harden by lunch time”, she admonished.

As usual, I was day dreaming, mistaking a chappati being transferred on to the skillet, with an egg wrap being deposited into my mouth. And as usual the bai making the morning chappatis had taken a ‘sick’ leave leaving us with no other option. 

It was a nice and fluffy bed with soft pillows filled with feathers. A giggling, bubbling Priya started a pillow fight with me. She picked up the soft pillow and like a lithe shot putter, flung it at me…I grabbed at it and promptly deposited my shirt…yes, my shirt into the washing tub. 

Was I caught day dreaming again? “Rohit! I think there are 12 clothes. Take a spoonful of washing powder, it should be enough.”

“Hoy, Maharani!”, I said in jest. In reply, she threw another shirt at me to dip in the frothing tub.

Yes, i am sure you must have gathered by now that I love helping my wife in domestic duties. Or rather, the options have run out.

It wasn’t always so. 

When I was but a child, watching the weekly movie at the neighbour’s, I was enamoured by the love life of a film hero, who broke into a boisterous song or two, on spotting the cycle riding, shyly smiling heroine, always accompanied by a gaggle of giggling friends.

When they managed to get rid of those irritating friends, they ended up in a flower garden, dancing and running around umpteenth trees. I could never understand how two neighbouring flowers managed to caress each other whenever the hero,with a silly smile pasted on his face, got anywhere near the heroine.

After facing many childish obstacles, when they finally pranced hand in hand towards the sunset, the child in me was flushed with joy. That night, I used to dream of myself in the hero’s shoes. 

But the lie was exposed, and how. After the initial passionate flush of married life, I finally understood that a marriage is built from the building blocks of daily chores and mutual understanding to achieve those necessary tasks to keep the marriage engine running.

There! I have spoilt the romantic notions of a few unmarried individuals.